Zardari Absent during Obama’s Speeches

President Asif Ali Zardari has ignored US President Barack Obama’s three speeches, which he made on different occasions and mentioned Pakistan, Pakistani people and their war against terror.

Despite being in New York on a weeklong visit to the United Nations to represent his country, President Zardari chose to be absent when President Obama spoke on Pakistan. On September 22, more than 110 heads of state and government, including President Obama, 6 vice-presidents and many other top-level dignitaries like Hilary Clinton, former Vice-President Al-Gore, attended the conference on climate change at the UN, President Zardari stayed away and abstained from any interaction with such a large gathering of world leaders on a key issue of climate change that will adversely affect people of Pakistan in coming years.

Zardari’s close friend Dr Asim Hussain represented Pakistan while the president was visiting Presbyterian Hospital, New York, for his medical check-up.

The same afternoon, President Zardari attended the 5th annual conference of Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in a nearby hotel. More than 60 current and former heads of state/government and dozens of celebrities came to the conference. But President Zardari left before slightly delayed arrival of President Obama. In his speech at the CGI, Obama paid rich tribute to the brave people of Pakistan who are fighting against terrorism.

In the morning of September 23, areas around the United Nations were almost sealed by the New York police, FBI, US secret service and the UN security force for restricted entry to the UN. About 75 heads of state/government, hundreds of ministers, diplomats and officials were in New York. All were reminded to arrive early at the UN to join the UN General Assembly session, while President Obama addressed the UNGA. All the invitees reached on time but President Zardari remained absent from the session.

When asked for the reason for Zardari’s absence, Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told this correspondent that the president had his own engagements, and attending the UNGA on the day of US president’s speech is not mandatory for President Zardari. He said that it was not an important issue. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was there to lead Pakistani delegation at the UNGA. For the other two occasions of ignoring Obama speeches, he said President Zardari had more important engagements of his own.

By Azim M Mian

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